Monday, 10 September 2012

A 9am - 5pm Day.

I did it! I sat down at 9am, had a tea-refill break at around 11am, 45mins for lunch, and then worked straight until actually about 5.30pm. Go me!
Result? Less words than I usually write, but more research, some editing, and finally getting around to drafting a query letter to send to agents.

Okay, so it is sad about not getting as many words written. Will definitely have to improve on that.

I'm currently  having a few issues with beginning this new story:

1. I had written the prologue and part of the first chapter about 4 years ago (did not think it was that long ago until I did the maths, which is very sad for many reasons.) At the time, I had thought it was a brilliantly written piece (though in need of minor editing), full of emotion and atmosphere. Looking back at it today...  well, lets just say I spent the first three hours this morning editing and then reediting. And I mean the type of editing which is cartoonised as someone standing over a screaming page with a bloody cleaver and a mad gleam in their eyes.  

2. Having not actually finished writing the book before turns out to have consequences. Sad, but true. I know in my mind that the main character is going to get framed for murder and possibly treason by a group of bad guys, ends up floating at sea (somehow), is picked up by a Spanish privateer ship and this book starts three years later. However, I hadn't actually got around to working out: what treasonous things, exactly, did the bad guys do that he was framed for? Who are these bad guys, and how many of them are there? What did he do for three years on the privateer ship, exactly? I had brainstormed that he started chasing down the guys, or running secret missions for England, but when it comes writing from that point onwards, a bit more detail is sort of necessary.

Not knowing all these little bits did have quite a large debilitating effect on my ability to write. So I will need to spend a bit more time brain storming, and then just free writing to see what comes. I'm past the prologue and onto an entirely new bit, so that should help in my next session. Will try the technique of writing out my problems with the story just as I go to sleep, and see if I can answer them as soon as I wake up in the morning. Though, to be honest, 10 to 1 I will wake up and the first thing I will think of will be breakfast, and it will be while I'm biting down on my toast that I suddenly remember I was meant to write out my first thoughts, by which time it will be too late. Toast is the downfall of us all.... well, not us all, as it was the making of the Roman Army, but you get my point, I think/hope/wish.

On the actual business side of things, today was great. I've been meaning to get my act together and start the not so creative process of actually getting my Sally Hunt books properly published. I know we discussed self-publishing, and I think I will do that with the Castle Innis series, as it is unlikely to be taken on by a traditional publisher as it is not in a clearly defined marketable genre (not enough romance to be considered historical romance, and I don't think historical adventure is so big at the moment.) But for Sally Hunt, my first ever series, which I love deeply and actually think is really pretty good, I want to try and do the best by it.

So, I'm starting with trying to get an agent. Is it bad of me that I'm looking to America instead of Australia because their Christian market is so much larger than ours? It makes it sound like I'm doing it just for the money but not really. I'm doing it just for the fame! Well, not fame for me personally, I just want the largest number of people to read Sally Hunt and hopefully feel a bit brighter about the world because of it.

For those of you thinking of looking for an agent, there is a lot of information out there. I spent four hours today basically just reading info on how to write a query letter, which is the letter you send before you send the proposal, which is what you send before you send the full manuscript, which is what happens before it actually gets seen by someone who could publish it. It's a slow process, what can I say?

Looking around I came across another writing blog which again appears to be super famous and also really informative. The blog is written by Nathan Bransford who is himself a published young teens author and literary agent.

I just want to copy out some of his advice on writing a query letter, because it is priceless. This was written in 2008, and he has added some updates since then, so please check out the original post if this amuses you as much as it did me:

You know those "mad lib" games you'd play as a kid, where you start off by writing down a list of verbs, places and adjectives, and inevitably the words "snot" and "farted" were involved, which made any story HILARIOUS?

Well, we're going to play query letter mad lib today. Here's how it works.

First I'm going to need these things:

[Agent name], [genre], [personalized tidbit about agent], [title], [word count], [protagonist name], [description of protagonist], [setting], [complicating incident], [verb], [villain], [protagonist's quest], [protagonist's goal], [author's credits (optional)], [your name]

Now, look how your query turns out:

Dear [Agent name],

I chose to submit to you because of your wonderful taste in [genre], and because you [personalized tidbit about agent].

[protagonist name] is a [description of protagonist] living in [setting]. But when [complicating incident], [protagonist name] must [protagonist's quest] and [verb] [villain] in order to [protagonist's goal].

[title] is a [word count] work of [genre]. I am the author of [author's credits (optional)], and this is my first novel.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best wishes,
[your name]

That's all you need.

Now, granted, this is the most formulaic query ever written (you know... because it uses a formula), and I'm crossing my fingers that I don't now receive a thousand virtually identical letters. But if you can't fill this mad lib out in two seconds and craft a pretty decent query letter, something might be wrong with your novel. 

The saddest thing? I had spent about an hour prior to this drafting a complex and meaningful letter, and then just for fun tried this out. It kicked ass over my carefully crafted, way too self-centred and long earlier attempt. I then went on and fiddled with it a bit and plan to check over it again tomorrow, but over all, it is super awesome.

Am thinking of typing up templates like this for Arts essays for my tute students.

Eg. [name of scholar1] has argued [outline theory] in their seminal work [title of work]. This has been roundly trashed by [name of scholar2] who complains that [objections to theory] clearly demonstrate that [name of scholar1] should be teaching elementary school instead of running a university department.

Could be so much fun.

Anyway, other benefit of 9-5 day is that I felt absolutely no guilt about curling up after dinner and watching Grimm. Can't watch TV all the time I'm not writing, as I still need to be reading and spending wordless time, but it was nice to know I had fulfilled my duty to the world, if not myself.

Tomorrow might be a bit less structured as need to take car (whose name is Tommy, by the way, and it suits him very well) in to get a roadworthy and then go out to lunch with my aunt (which I'm looking forward to, in case that didn't come out in my sentence structure). I'm also possibly being forced into slave labour by my mother to help unpack all my grandmother's boxes. But that should be my charity for the month, so can then be super rude to everyone I know and sit down and write. Yah!

Ta ta til then, darlings!


  1. *ahem* So you've named your car after Suse's car then?

    Also - the blog is getting better and better. Pretty psyched for the agent letter draft, to be honest.

  2. Okay, I might have borrowed the name of Suse's car. But her's is a very Aussie Tommy, while mine is more on an English Tommy. And I thought that the two were unlikely to meet.

    And thanks for the feedback! Am trying, though often if feels like its getting worse and worse! (or more whingy and self-centred :D).
    Will let you know how the agent's letters go.